Everything You Need to Know About Loreto Bay National Park
Parque Nacional Bahía de Loreto, or Loreto Bay National Park, is one of Mexico’s greatest treasures, protecting the ocean’s rich biodiversity. It’s an explorer’s paradise, the ideal location for snorkeling and scuba diving, and if life under the sea fascinates you, put Loreto on your travel bucket list.
Where is the Loreto Bay National Park?
As its name suggests, the Loreto Bay National Park is located by the city of Loreto, Baja California Sur. This municipality is on Mexico’s west coast on the Baja Peninsula along the Sea of Cortez. Nicknamed “The Aquarium of the World” by Jacques Couteau, this sea lies between the Baja Peninsula and the mainland of Mexico. The park covers over 200,000 hectares, of which 11.9% are rocky islands.
When was the Loreto Bay National Park Established?
As the city of Loreto began to develop into an international destination, the community recognized the importance of preserving the natural environment, and on July 19, 1996, Parque Nacional Bahía de Loreto was officially established by the Mexican government.
In addition to becoming one of Mexico’s national parks in 1996, UNESCO also declared Loreto Bay National Park a World Heritage Site in 2005. The marine area is also a Ramsar Site, a wetland area of international importance that meets a standard of criteria under the Ramsar Convention for supporting fish species, waterbirds, and vulnerable ecological communities.
The Islands of Loreto
Within the protected boundaries of the marine park are five large islands: Danzante, Carmen, Coronado, Montserrat, and Santa Catalina Islands. Their shorelines have clear blue waters for snorkeling, and their rocky formations are some of the best dive sites in Mexico.
In the waters and on the islands of the marine park, there’s an abundance of species, including several that are endangered. Lizards and snakes rest on the rocky islands, and jackrabbits and small mice scurry among the bushes while seagulls and blue footed booby birds fly overhead. However, it’s the tropical fish, sea turtles, and sea lions that are the main attractions here, and in the winter, humpback, grey, and blue whales migrate to Loreto Bay National Park.
Within Parque Nacional Bahía de Loreto are some of Baja California’s main attractions. Travelers love sailing out to the islands and relaxing on their secluded beaches, and underneath the water’s surface, divers explore rocky reefs and caves while surrounded by tropical marine animals.
There are a variety of guided tours that teach travelers about Loreto Bay National Park while giving them the chance to enjoy activities like paddleboarding, whale watching, kayaking, snorkeling, sport fishing, and hiking on the islands. Throughout these activities, keep your eyes open for all the park’s natural flora and fauna.
Over time, marine biologists noticed one of nature’s greatest phenomena in the park: the migration of fish and whales. These animals travel thousands of miles a year based on natural instincts to return to the Sea of Cortez. Fishermen know to track the arrival of different species for sport fishing, and in the winter, Arctic whales can be seen splashing off the coast of Loreto.
Because travelers come from around the world to visit the Sea of Cortez, there are a variety of tour providers who will take you hiking on the mountains or diving in the sea. These local guides have a good knowledge of the area, and during your tour, you’ll learn more about the environment’s biodiversity.
When you make your plans for visiting the marine park, be sure you have a certified guide or company that’s authorized to work in the national park. To help preserve the environment, consider using reef-safe sunblock, and be sure to reapply it every two hours.